It shouldn't be too surprising then that results from a survey of students in grades 6 through 12 show 33% of students think there's "way too much," and 44% think there's "too much."
Some of those students say they spend more than four hours a night completing their homework. The survey, done last spring by the Pleasanton Unified School District, shows 14% saying they spend two-and-a-half to three hours nightly; 13% spending three to three-and-a-half hours; another 13% saying they spend three-and-a-half to four hours a night; and 18% who say their homework takes more than four hours.
A recent visit to Foothill High School showed kids on both sides of the spectrum.
Freshman Josh Miller said his homework generally takes about an hour, and he can usually wrap that up during school hours.
"I rarely get anything for sign language," Miller said. "For health, my health teacher says she doesn't believe in homework. She says I should be outside, exercising."
Keaton Housman, a senior, also said he gets "maybe" an hour, adding, "It's random."
While senior Derek Kanowsky said he gets "an OK amount," he added, "I know a few of my friends just get, like, a ridiculous amount."
For Kanowsky, that means about three hours a night.
Freshman Eura Bang said she averages about two hours a night.
"That's a lot of homework," Bang said.
But for her friends Troy Knatt and Diane Huang, two hours would be an easy night.
"I do five-ish. I do extracurricular stuff, so I have to squeeze that in," Huang said, explaining, "I get all A's and I'm in all honors (classes)."
Knatt, who's also on the football team, said he normally gets home from practice about 6:30 p.m., starts his homework at 7, and hopes to finish by 10.
"If I have a lot, I wake up at 5 in the morning," Knatt said.
The majority of the students surveyed, 52%, say they're "always" assigned homework over weekends. Although school has only been in session for less than two months and the volume could increase, the students interviewed at Foothill gave a variety of answers.
"English is the only class that I have consistent homework in," Miller said. "She doesn't give homework on Fridays or over the weekends. She says weekends are for family."
Again, Knatt and Huang said weekend homework isn't unusual, with Bang saying she sometimes gets weekend assignments, too.
The students surveyed also say they're often required to use a computer to complete their homework, that teachers seldom or never inform their parents about their assignments, and that teachers never or infrequently coordinate the scheduling of homework, tests or other major assignments.
"I think some teachers do," Kanowsky said.
The survey, however, doesn't take into account the use of the Internet, social networking sites, texting and cell phone use while students are doing homework.
A 2007 study from Cal State University Fresno concluded: "The Internet can be a source of education but specific sites or tools on the Internet may have little to no educational value and may actually distract and take time away from homework. Cell phones too have many benefits and have given parents a means by which to keep in contact with their child. However, parents may need to monitor their child's use."
Teachers say the amount of homework they give is "just right," according to the survey. Sixth- to 12th-grade teachers in the survey also said their students spend 15 to 30 minutes completing their assignments. However, if a student has five core subjects -- English, social studies, math, science and a language class -- along with an arts or music class, with each teacher assigning as much as 30 minutes of homework, that could easily top three hours a night.
"There are some teachers who think they're the only class that every student has, so they give them a lot of work," Kanowsky said.
That may be why parents seem to agree with their kids. For students in grades K-5, 55% of parents say the amount of homework is just right; 23% say there's too much; and 11% say there's way too much. From sixth grade on, though, those numbers jump, with 37% saying there's too much; and another 28% saying there's way too much.
But parents don't agree about how long it takes their kids to get through their assignments. While 14% say homework takes more than four hours, most parents say it generally takes one-and-a-half to three hours; with 15% saying one-and-a-half to two hours; another 15% saying two to two-and-a-half hours; and 15% saying two-and-a-half to three hours.
"It seems to me that everyone is coming from a very different vantage point, their own thoughts about what homework should be," said Jane Golden, Pleasanton schools' Director of Curriculum and Special Projects. "It seems to me that the parents and students are more in sync with each other than they are with the teachers. The parents and students are doing the homework, and the teachers are assigning it."
Golden said the survey is part of a year-long study of the homework question.
"We're just now beginning to have forums and focus groups to talk with parents, teachers and students about what the current issues are and what they'd like to see as possible changes to the policy," she said. "We're also going to be looking at research, and there's a quite a bit of research.
Golden explained that the amount of time it takes to do homework is only part of the question, and that the district will also look at research into what constitutes "effective" homework.
There's already a piece of news that may be welcomed by younger students and their parents.
"Quite a bit of research says there's actually little to no academic benefit to homework for the elementary grades," Golden said.
While school administration does its own homework, reviewing the current research, the district is looking for feedback, too.
"We want to hear from everybody. We want to hear from parents, we want to hear from teachers, we want to hear from students," Golden said. "We have no preconceived ideas."
Email her at email@example.com.
District policy on homework
"The governing Board believes that homework contributes toward building responsibility, self-discipline and life-long learning habits and that time spent on homework directly influences students' ability to meet the District's academic standards."
The survey last spring included five categories:
* K-5 parents -- 1,184 participants
* K-5 teachers -- 123 participants
* 6-12 students -- 680 participants
* 6-12 teachers -- 178 participants
* 6-12 parents -- 1,159 participants